As the presenter of BBC One’s Escape to the Country, Jules Hudson is a familiar face – but what’s not so well known is his work as an Army Reservist in Wales.
Away from the cameras, the TV personality is one of the 2,200 Reserves in Wales and recently stepped up to play his part in the COVID Support Force, as the Armed Forces support the Government’s response to Coronavirus.
Jules, who lives in Herefordshire, with his wife and their young son, originally intended to join the Army and was due to be commissioned at Sandhurst in 1993, when the regiment he was about to join was disbanded and instead his career took a completely different path.
But his love of the Army and the longing to serve never left him, and four years ago he returned to Sandhurst at the age of 46, passing out in August 2017, when he was commissioned into the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had to start all over again with young men and women half my age – it was pretty daunting,” admitted Jules, who has committed to a minimum annual requirement of 27 days service.
Some of those days recently have seen him at the heart of the COVID Support Force working with senior military liaison officers in Cardiff supporting the work of NHS in Wales.
“I was a minor part of a very dedicated team, embedded within the Welsh Government in Cardiff under our R Mon RE CO, Lt. Col Joe Gossage, who became the senior Military Liaison Officer to the NHS in Wales.
“In those early days of lockdown, it was a very surreal place to be. A building that normally housed hundreds of government staff was empty – and yet there we were alongside new-found colleagues of the NHS in the heart of a capital city that felt deserted. No one knew what would happen, but as is traditional we planned for the worst, and hoped for the best.
“We were there very much to support the work that the NHS was doing by helping to co-ordinate the national effort that NHS Wales was having to undertake. I have to say from all the meetings that I sat in on, the senior staff within the NHS were absolutely outstanding, we could not have been in better hands.”
So why did a well-known TV personality with an already packed diary return to the military and sign up as a Reservist?
In part, Jules explains, it was due to being born in Colchester into a military family with a grandfather who fought at Dunkirk. “My love of the Army stems from my childhood in Colchester and from my grandfather. I would go to the Military Tattoo and the carnival – it was event of the year back in the 1970’s!
“I am delighted that I am now able to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps and serve my country as a Reservist – for anyone it offers the opportunity to learn new skills and to put their particular skillset at the disposal of the military.
“Don’t think you are too old – look at me, I joined at the age of 46! If you think you have something to offer, or are simply prepared to serve, then go for it.”
For now Jules’ regiment, The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers, the oldest and most senior Reserve Regiment in the Army, continues to support the work of the NHS along with a great many other units across the UK, whilst looking forward to life after lockdown.